Journal of Clinical Pathology 2015 August 17 [Epub ahead of print] [Link]

Klebe S, Swalling A, Jonavicius L, Henderson DW.


Immunohistochemical detection of thyroid transcription factor-1 (TTF-1) plays an important role in the diagnosis and subclassification of non-small cell carcinomas of the lung in biopsy and some cytology samples, specifically for identification of squamous cell carcinoma (classically negative) and non-mucinous adenocarcinoma (positive in most cases) and for discrimination between lung adenocarcinoma and pleural malignant mesothelioma (classically negative).

Aims and Methods

We carried out a comparison of the widely used mouse monoclonal TTF-1 antibody based on the 8G7G3/1 clone versus the more recently introduced rabbit monoclonal antibody (MAb) based on the SP141 clone.


Both antibodies labelled alveolar epithelium in normal lung parenchyma, but the SP141 antibody also labelled bronchial mucosal basal cells. All 13 cases of atypical squamous lesions (including one case of bronchial squamous dysplasia) were negative with the 8G7G3/1 antibody, but 6/13 cases of squamous carcinoma/dysplasia showed positive nuclear labelling with the SP141 antibody in the same tissue biopsy. All 35 cases of adenocarcinoma of the lung were positive with both antibodies. For 12 cases of sarcomatoid carcinoma of the lung, two cases were labelled with the 8G7G3/1 antibody, whereas positive labelling of 4/12 cases was observed with SP141. All 66 cases of epithelioid malignant mesothelioma were negative with both antibodies, but 8/19 cases of sarcomatoid mesothelioma showed positive nuclear labelling with the SP141 antibody (0/19 with 8G7G3/1).


Our findings indicate differences in the rates of positive and negative labelling with these two antibodies, and suggest the potential for misclassification of a proportion of squamous carcinomas of the lung as adenocarcinoma, and for misdiagnosis of some sarcomatoid mesotheliomas as sarcomatoid carcinoma of the lung. If the results of SP141 are assigned overriding significance, our findings further indicate that in isolation, neither negative labelling with either 8G7G3/1 or SP141 nor positive labelling with the SP141 MAb discriminates between sarcomatoid carcinoma and sarcomatoid mesothelioma, whereas positive labelling with the 8G7G3/1 MAb favours a diagnosis of sarcomatoid carcinoma. The literature suggests that these seemingly ‘aberrant’ results with the SP141 antibody are not ‘false’ positives, but rather real detection of low levels of TTF-1 protein in a broader range of tumours than is widely recognised.